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Welcome in the "House of the Desert"

Interview with Špela Videčnik, architect at OFIS Architecture

Goraffe desert, Spain | November 12, 2018

Špela Videčnik, Architect at OFIS Architecture, an expert in extreme environments and invited teacher at Harvard University, led the large and experienced team of architects responsible for "the house of the desert" - Guardian Glass' ambitious project in Goraffe desert, Spain. Now she talks about the challenges and goals the team had with the project.

Q - From an architectural point of view, what is the main goal an architect is considering when executing a complex project like this?

There are many issues. Most important is to achieve the best performance of the building in extreme conditions, while maintaining the best relation between the inside and the beautiful nature. It is important to keep opened views and establish a contact between the inhabitant and surrounding. On the other hand, we also have to keep in mind the structural resistance against the strong wind and all the vertical forces and, of course, the thermal characteristics of the building that should work very well in the extreme climate of this region.

Q – When Guardian Glass challenged you with this project, what was your first thought, your first feeling? Did you find it viable?

It really awoke our interest. In the office, of course we deal with very tough projects but I would say what we enjoy very much, is making small objects like this one in extreme environments. In the last years we build three Alpine shelters in very high mountains, with a lot of snow, and we are testing their resistance and wellbeing of mountaineers who are using them. The glass house in the desert is part of this research but challenges a very different context, climate and material.

Q - Since you are architects specialized in harsh environments, what are the main requirements these constructions should meet in order to become habitable and comfortable? What is the most important thing that you need to take into account?

First of all, it is a climate issue. Gorafe has very hot summers with almost no rains, strong sun and winds… and then in winter you can get very cold weather and even snow. There are also extreme temperatures gaps between day and night that we also had to consider. The building needs to face this climate and protect the interior from the sun while maintaining the glass as transparent as possible. We managed to achieve this with help of Guardian experts who defined various coatings on the triple glazing – non visible but yet achieving thermally isolated interior. We also explored structural aspect of glass – to have glass walls also as structural element. There are no columns in this building made either by steel or wood. The roof with all its heavy PV elements is only supported by glass.

Q - In addition, "The house of the desert" is an energy efficient and self-sufficient building, of almost zero consumption. What role does glass play in this?

Glass plays an important role in this building. In our projects we like to research and test different types of materials. Glass is the hero of our project and we enjoyed challenging it to its limits. Creating a glass house is playing with transparencies and reflections… Then it is about testing is thermal characteristic – to protect the interior of getting to hot in summer and keep warm interior in winter. Third challenge was creating a building with no other structure than glass. No columns, no steel, pure transparency.

 

 

Špela Videčnik, Architect at OFIS Architecture, an expert in extreme environments and invited teacher at Harvard University, led the large and experienced team of architects responsible for "the house of the desert" - Guardian Glass' ambitious project in Goraffe desert, Spain.

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